Those Pesky Trees
Here is a correspondence from Hamish Lammp at the Planning Department of the City of Ballarat. It is in response to a number of complaints made to council about the chopping down of protected trees in Ballarat East, specifically Stockade St.
“For background, Worksafe officers raised concerns with the developer regarding the potential danger the trees posed to the workers on site and requested an arborist assess their condition. The developer’s qualified arborist inspected the trees on 23 March who determined the trees did pose a major risk and complete or partial failure of the trees were highly likely. The developer subsequently submitted the arborist report to Council for review.
Before Council provided a formal response the trees were removed. Council’s arborist inspected both trees immediately after Easter and determined that whilst the trees did not pose an immediate danger, they had suffered very significant internal decay which would have been seriously impacting their structural integrity. Council’s arborist is of the view that the life of both trees were therefore limited, and if not removed would certainly have in time posed imminent danger to the future occupants of the lots.
It is clear that whilst the developer sought Council’s advice on the matter, this in itself does not justify them in proceeding to remove the trees without Council’s consent given the protection afforded by the subdivision permit. On this basis the developer will be issued with a Planning Infringement Notice and served with the requisite $1221 fine (fines are set by the Infringement Act 2006 and not at the discretion of Council).
Officers have negotiated with the developer regarding replanting on site. The developer has agreed to replant within the tree protection envelopes and at the same time the envelopes may be re-sited nearer to Stockade Street so the trees make a more valued contribution to the streetscape and wider public domain. The type of native species and number will be worked through with the developer in due course. Officers consider this will present a better planning outcome longer term, with more trees planted with a longer life expectancy within closer proximity of the public domain.
Just to clarify, officers have advised the developer that the envelopes are not to be reduced in size. The intent of relocating the envelopes is to provide an improved outcome through providing an enhanced landscape character that can be more readily appreciated from the street. Of course all subject to the number and type of species to be provided.
To relocate the envelopes requires a variation to the existing restriction which the developer will be required to apply for a planning permit. As part of the notification of any such application it must be advertised in the newspaper, providing opportunity for the community to comment.”
We at BE Net congratulate the Council officers for following up on this matter, while at the same time being dismayed at the hopelessly inadequate fine imposed on the developer for the totally illegal behaviour. We put all developers on notice – if you want to develop in this area consider neighbourhood character – because we will be watching, we will be working with council to enhance this area and ensuring that you do too.
We will also be following council on the following questions, so add your comment below for anything to be included:
- how do we support the Ballarat Planning Scheme and support (read enforce) developers to ‘enhance’ the area?
- how do we put in place a system that support community contribution to planning and development decisions BEFORE we go down the road of ‘objection’ ‘mediation’ and ‘VCAT’ all very adversarial processes?
- how do we protect trees, vegetation and the bush environment in an area that is becoming heavily populated?
- does council see the big picture of continued opposition to over development in connected areas of Brown Hill, Ballarat East, Mount Clear, Mount Helen and Buninyong, if so what is the expected response?
- how do we ensure that council employees who work so regularly with developers and not residents (eg council officers on site being overly familiar with the developer and then ignoring residents) behave in a manner publicly that supports the presumed objectivity of council?
- how do we stop this ‘planning in reverse’?